In the Vatican Basilica before Our Lady of Fatima, the pontiff performs the act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary amid a "cruel and senseless" conflict. This was preceded by a penitential liturgy because “we have forgotten the lesson of the tragedies of the last century” and only God's forgiveness can “change our hearts and the world”. Entrusting oneself to the Mother is not a magical act but it is like children who “turn to their Mother” when “they are frightened.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – This evening, Pope Francis consecrated in St Peter’s Basilica all humanity – especially Russia and Ukraine – to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, amid the brutal war in the heart of Europe.
For the occasion, the pontiff wrote a prayer lamenting that “We [have] opened our hearts to violence and destructiveness.” The plea goes on to say:
“Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war.
Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation.
Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world.
Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge, and teach us forgiveness.
Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons.”
The act of entrustment took place in front of the statue of the Virgin of Fatima venerated at her shrine in San Vittorino, just outside Rome, brought for the occasion to the Vatican Basilica. The same act was performed simultaneously by the papal almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, on the pope’s behalf, at the site of Mary’s apparitions in Portugal, as well as by the bishops in the dioceses of the world.
It is no coincidence that it was preceded by a penitential liturgy that Francis wished for the Marian solemnity of the Annunciation because “We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. [. . .] Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!”
Pope Francis himself approached the sacrament of reconciliation in a confessional placed at the altar of St Basil the Great, in the Vatican Basilica, where he later personally confessed some of the faithful.
"Too often, we think that confession consists in our going to God with our heads bowed,” he said a little earlier in the homily. “But it is not primarily we who return to the Lord, but it is he who comes to visit us, to fill us with his grace, to cheer us up with his joy. To confess is to give the Father the joy of raise us again.”
It is with this gaze that the pope urges us to look also at the tragedy of war. “These days, news and images of death continue to enter our homes, while bombs destroy the homes of so many of our helpless Ukrainian brothers and sisters. This brutal war, which has befallen so many and makes everyone suffer, causes fear and dismay in everyone. Inside we feel a sense of helplessness and inadequacy.”
Like Mary in the Annunciation, “we need to be told ‘fear not’. But human reassurances are not enough, we need the presence of God, the certainty of divine forgiveness, the only one that erases evil, defuses resentment, [and] restores peace to the heart. Let us return to God, to his forgiveness.”
“By ourselves, we cannot solve the contradictions of history or even those of our hearts. We need God’s wise and gentle strength, for he is the Holy Spirit. We need the Spirit of love that dissolves hatred, quenches resentment, extinguishes greed, [and] awakens us from indifference.”
For Francis, we often forget to ask God “what is most important and what He wishes to give us: the Holy Spirit, the strength to love. Without love, in fact, what will we offer to the world?
“Someone said that a Christian without love is like a needle that does not sew: it stings, it hurts, but if it does not sew, if it does not weave, if it does not unite, it is useless. I dare say: he is not a Christian. For this reason, it is necessary to draw the power of love from God’s forgiveness, the same Spirit that descended upon Mary. Because, if we want the world to change, our hearts must change first of all.”
This leads to the choice of "bringing to the Immaculate Heart of Mary all that we are experiencing: to renew the consecration of the Church to her and of all humanity and to consecrate to her, in a special way, the Ukrainian people and the Russian people, who with filial affection venerate her as Mother.
“This is a spiritual, not a magic act,” Pope Francis said. “It is the act of fully entrusting children who, in the tribulation of this cruel and senseless war that threatens the world, turn to their Mother, as children do when they are frightened.
“They do this by thrusting fear and pain in her Heart, by handing themselves over to her. It means placing in that clear, uncontaminated Heart, where God is reflected, the precious goods of fraternity and peace – all that we have and are, so that she, the Mother whom the Lord has given us, can protect us and keep us safe.”
“’May it be done to me according to your word,’ Mary told the Angel. After saying yes, the Mother of God undertook a long journey into the hill country to visit her pregnant cousin (cf. Lk 1:39). May she take our journey by hand today, guide it through the steep and tiring byways of fraternity and dialogue, on the path of peace.”